Salish Wool Dog

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Salish Wool Dog
A Salish Wool Dog in a 19th-century painting of Coast Salish weaving
OriginWashington state and British Columbia
Breed statusExtinct
Dog (domestic dog)

The Salish Wool Dog or Comox dog is an extinct breed of white, long-haired, Spitz-type dog that was developed and bred by the Coast Salish peoples of what is now Washington state and British Columbia.[1] The small, long-haired wool dog and the coyote-like village dogs were deliberately maintained as separate populations. The dogs were kept in packs of about 12 to 20 animals, and fed primarily raw and cooked salmon. To keep the breed true to type and the preferred white color, Salish Wool Dogs were confined on islands and in gated caves.

Salish peoples, renowned for their weaving and knitting, did not raise sheep, and while mountain goat fur was also used to create wool textiles, mountain goats were wild, and thus their fur could only be collected from mountain goats leaving fur in the environment, such as from shedding, or collected from skins of hunted goats. The Salish Wool Dog was prized, then, for it being a source of material for wool that was a domesticated animal, and thus a consistent source of high quality material.

The dogs were sheared like sheep in May or June. In an account by George Vancouver, it was said that the sheared fur was so thick that he could pick up a corner and the whole fleece would hold together. The dog hair was frequently mixed with mountain goat wool, feathers, and plant fibers to change the yarn quality and to extend the supply of fiber.

The National Museum of Natural History received a specimen of the Salish Wool Dog in 1859, which remains in their collection after being rediscovered in 2003.[2]


  • Skull total length: 162.0 mm (6.38 in)
  • Condylobasal skull length: 154.6 mm (6.09 in)
  • Femur GL: 154.3 mm (6.07 in)
  • Tibia GL: 150.0 mm (5.91 in)
  • Humerus GL: 143.5 mm (5.65 in)
  • Radius GL: 136.0 mm (5.35 in)
  • Ulna GL: 157.5 mm (6.20 in)
  • Shoulder height of standing dog: 44 cm (17 in) [3]

Cultural significance of textiles to Coast Salish peoples[edit]

Beyond their practical uses, woolen blankets, such as those that were made from fur of the Coast Salish Dog while it was alive, are of significant social, cultural, economic, and spiritual significance to Salish peoples. Traditionally, women were in charge of making the blankets. Young girls were trained by their grandmothers as early as ten years of age, with more intense training at puberty. Weaving blankets required serious commitment and could take long periods of time to complete. Additionally, they were often associated with spiritual tasks or rituals such as abstinence.[4] Blankets represented an individual's wealth and were often given away to members of the community or even other villages to show prosperity, such as during the potlatch ceremony and public gathering, and were also used as a currency for which other goods could be purchased or bartered.

Traditionally, but as well as contemporaneously, certain kinds of ceremonial blankets can identify the wearer as being a civic and religious leader in the community. Honored individuals can be adorned with a blanket to distinguish them, or they would sit or stand upon their blankets so as to raise them in accordance of their honored status.[5]


  1. ^ "World Small Animal Veterinary Association World Congress Proceedings, 2005". 30 March 2015.
  2. ^ Brash, Russel (June 22, 2016). "Coast Salish Woolly Dogs". HistoryLink. Retrieved April 18, 2019.
  3. ^ Crockford, S.J. (1997). "Osteometry of Makah and Coast Salish dogs". Burnaby, British Columbia: Archaeology Press 22, Simon Fraser University.
  4. ^ Paula Gustafson. Salish Weaving. Douglas and McIntyre: Vancouver, 1980.
  5. ^ Crisca Bierwert. Weaving in Beauty, Weaving in Time in S'abadeb The Gifts: Pacific Coast Salish Art and Artists. ed. Barbara Brotherton. Seattle Art Museum: 2008.

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